Prepare for Midterms in 7 Steps


This is part I of a two-part series on midterms.

It’s that time of year: midterms are right around the corner! No need to panic. With the right amount of preparation, you’ll be in great shape. We’re sharing 7 things you can do right away to get started.


How to Prepare for Midterms:


1. Plan to prepare

Planning for studying for a midterm is a must. In anticipation for midterms, you should work backwards from the midterm and block out times to do midterm-specific review for each of your classes. Creating a study schedule for midterms will help you organize how and when you need to study for your exams. You will want to set aside time to review all of your notes, go to office hours, attend review sessions, and take breaks.


2. Get your notes in order

Annotating and clarifying your notes is essential to mastering the material. If there is a gap in your notes or you don’t understand something, attend to it immediately. Find a classmate, go to office hours with the professor or teaching assistant, or consider a tutor. Even if you don’t find a gap in your notes, it’s helpful to compare notes with others in your class to see if you have any gaps.

When you review your notes, do so with the big picture in mind. How do the concepts you learned in week 5 relate to what you learned in week 2? Building connections from one concept to another will strengthen your overall understanding of the material.

Tip: Use flashcards! They’re not fancy, but they work. They offer a straightforward way to jot down important facts, concepts, and details. And, research shows you’ll retain more information if you take notes by hand rather than your laptop.


3. Watch your professor for clues

Your professor provides the most insight into what will be covered on your midterm exam. It seems obvious, but you’ll have a much better idea about what’s going to be on the midterm if you take notice anytime your professor:

  • Talks slowly so you have an easier time taking notes
  • Uses an example that highlights a cause / effect, comparison / contrast, or explains the significance or relevance of a particular topic
  • Repeats a concept
  • Tells a story to help cement your understanding of a concept

These tips will help you filter out the white noise from the real stuff. And, the more frequently you preview class materials before class, you’ll have a better idea about what your professor wants to prioritize.

Pizza Man

4. Don’t forget: You are what you eat

It’s so tempting to gobble down that leftover cold pizza or finish off that bag of chips during crunch time, but research shows a correlation between healthier eating and higher performance. Keeping your mind and body sharp when you study - especially during exams - is crucial.

For meals and snacks, try to incorporate a superfood or foods high in antioxidants. Think almonds, oatmeal, Greek yogurt, quinoa, chia seeds, green tea, broccoli, salmon, spinach, eggs, pistachios, beets, beans, pumpkins, apples, cranberries, cauliflower, and lentils.

Studying burns energy because it causes your brain to burn glucose, which explains why you’re always hungry after a study session. Taking a snack break every hour will replenish your energy and keep you fueled.

Again, snacks like nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables are ideal. It’s OK to sneak in your favorite brand of potato chips or those gummy bears you like, but healthier snacks will sustain you for a longer period of time.

Review Session

5. Go to the review session

It would be a HUGE mistake to skip out on a review session facilitated by your professor or teaching assistant. Review sessions cover the main topics that will be tested and can help prioritize your studying, especially if the course materials are extensive. Usually, the instructor will slip in a few questions that will be on the exam. Review sessions also tend to be smaller than your actual classes, so you’ll likely have an opportunity to ask any questions you have during the session.

Study Groups

6. Participate in study groups

Forming study groups with classmates can offer an immense boost to your exam preparation. Typically, everyone in a study group is assigned with a specific section of the course material, then each group member’s responsibility is to summarize and re-teach main points to everyone else in study group. With a set meeting time and others depending on your input, you’ll be less likely to procrastinate.

Discussion and debate at the study group meeting will help solidify your understanding of the course material, since listening and speaking to others enhances your ability to recall information. You’ll also see how different students approach the same concepts and/or problems from different perspectives, which can help you master the material and even anticipate test questions.


7. Take breaks

Midterms are a marathon; taking breaks and setting aside time to relax are part of the race to the finish line. It’s important to take intermittent breaks during study sessions to eat a small snack, rest your eyes, change up your study location, or get some exercise. Don’t fall into a trap where studying is the only thing you do - you still have to eat, sleep, and shower. Giving yourself time to replenish your energy will help you study longer and more efficiently.


Steve Chang
CSO, Propeller Collective

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